11th July 2011
Forty-five nautical miles further into the Kimberley region today and anchored in Koolama Bay at 1730. Not wanting to risk entering the King George river on a low tide we anchored near the head of the bay some 5 miles from the mouth of the river. The anchorage on the north eastern side of the head of the bay is close in and very secure. 'ONDE' a large privately owned and crewed power catamaran was already at anchor. Having another vessel nearby always makes it a much simpler affair to locate a good anchorage.
Not long after sunrise we were on our way to enter the King George river over the sand bar which according to the a commercial cruise yacht from Wyndam is silting up creating some variation year to year to the entrance channel. Using the sounder we had no trouble finding the channel and making a safe entry. A remarkable feature of the Berkeley River and the King George River is that they have barred entrances similar to east coast rivers but within a few miles of the entrance 150m high vertical walled canyons replace the flatter mangrove lined banks of the lower reaches. Ever so gently we motored along in mirror calm conditions the full length of the navigable portion of the river some 6nm to where the river forks and terminates at a waterfall plunging over the 100m high cliffs at the end of each fork leg. The water at the falls is some 60m deep and it was possible to put Truansea's bow right under the falling water giving the sharp end a taste of liquid Kimberley. What an experience the bows were centimeters away from the cliff behind the waterfall and the pressure was holding her off. I asked Bevan to collect a bucket full of water for a rinse off but the water hitting him on the head and the bottom of the bucket was more than he could take so only a small amount of water was collected.
After having our fill of that experience we moved a few hundred meters downstream and anchored in about 7m water over sand. From here we took the tender ashore and after hauling it a few meters clear of the water we climbed up through about 100m of scree and then scrambled up a further 100m over rocks to the top of the cliff and made our way to the top of the falls. The direction to the falls is marked by rock cairns thoughtfully placed by others and maintained or added to by almost everyone else who passes by. The vista from the top of the falls is exactly as you see in the tourist brochures and every bit as grand and expansive as is imagined. Seeing Truansea lying so calmly to anchor some 150m below provided me with a reflective moment thankful that I had the opportunity to experience this wild, idyllic and remote gift of nature. The lure to take that special photo close to the edge of the cliffs was to much for me to resist so crawling ever closer to the precipice and laying on my stomach so as to not overbalance I snapped of some beautiful shots. We walked all around the immediate area above the falls and had a wash/swim in one of the many rock pools that abound here. The water is clear and cool and as I was later to discover quite good at colour changing my white shirt to match the iron oxide stains on the surrounding rocks. After a lazy couple of hours above the river on the warm rocks we descended to where the tender lay and headed back to Truansea and began a photographic trip downstream to an anchorage a couple of miles inside the river mouth. Along the way I trolled a lure which several fish (queenfish? barra?)took an interest in but failed to get any into the boat. About three miles from the mouth of the river it widens appreciably and a section branches off to the east. Here we came across ONDE again and this time some passengers who arrived aboard a floatplane were being received. We were then overtaken by the floatplane as he taxied downstream and downwind before turning a couple of hundred meters in front of us and roaring back past us as he took off and climbed out of the gorge. All ho hum really stuff like this happens every day! (see later Horizontal Falls post)
That was the King George River. The scenery warrants the effort to go there and climb to the top of the falls. The Berkeley and King George are as alike as they are dissimilar and indicative of the rock formations and ruggedness to be experienced right across the Kimberley region. Navigational challenges, current and tide hazards are at the lower end of those to be experienced in the Kimberleys and I suspect a visit here and return to Darwin would satisfy many adventurers and whet the appetite for the more daring and hard core. It is after here that the real foray into the wild unknown began for me.
The next post follows Truansea as she exits the Joseph Boneparte Gulf and rounds Cape Londenderry, West Australia's most northerly point, and traverses Napier Broome Bay via Truscott Landing to Freshwater Bay and an encounter with a large shark.
Brian of Truansea